The EESC strongly supports pressing ahead with the Europe for Citizens programme and its key elements of encouraging and facilitating the active participation of citizens in political and public life.
The EU institutions are experiencing a grave problem of legitimacy. The public's low level of confidence, apathy and the lack of involvement in the decision-making process are fundamentally detrimental to the spirit of the EU. The financial framework proposed for the programme for carrying out the necessary work is insufficient, and everything possible should be done to increase this funding.
The Europe for Citizens programme must comply with the democratic norms set out in the Lisbon Treaty and support their firmer anchorage in Europe, especially where the mechanisms for participation and transparency provided for in Articles 10 and 11 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) are concerned.
The programme's strand on remembrance should promote a common identity and values. The EESC welcomes the importance of the role played by society in reuniting a Europe that was so long divided.
In addition makes the following proposals:
- Priority should be given to grants to support structural change, participation and the use of institutional memory, and care must be taken to ensure that there is no interruption in the programme between the current and following budget periods.
- There should also be an option to allocate grants for national-level participation in the EU decision-making process.
- Representatives of the EESC, the CoR and the partners in the structured dialogue should also be involved in the programme's steering group, and project management should be simplified.
- Voluntary work should be recognised as co-financing. A stronger financial commitment should be made in countries and regions where the resources intended to achieve the objectives of the programme are limited, or where indicators reveal low participation. The EESC categorically rejects the comment made in the Legislative financial statement for proposals, that the participation of medium and small-sized organisations presents a risk to programme management, and calls for it to be removed immediately. The EESC points out that such groups are particularly well-suited to civic participation.